Tag Archives: Library

What Does Everyone Have Against the Word “Ain’t”

721274It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance, or, more accurately, made the time, to sit down at this electronic contraption and write something down.  I love computers, not because of all the cool games, or homepages, or social media, but because of the ease of finding information and the ability to quickly write, edit and put into some form of design, the written word.  How did we find out anything before the internet?  We have an argument at our house now, or we can’t remember something, and it’s solved in seconds with a simple Google search. 

Remember the library?  I know they still have them because I drive by one, actually two, almost every day.  I don’t stop, don’t have a library card anymore, but I remember that is where the information was.  I think we can all agree that we’ve learned most everything we know from books, that are in that library.  You just had to know how to find it.  I had a professor in college that said we were there for only two reasons.  One was to prove that we could start something and finish it, and the other was to learn how to look things up in the library.  Guess he might think there is no reason to go get a bachelor’s degree any more.  He is, and was, an astronomy professor.  I still know how to look things up in the library, but they use a computer now, not the card file I used when I spent a lot of time there.

And I was there at the beginning, when computers weren’t in almost everyone’s home.  I heard yesterday that we have an average of six of them in our homes now, tablets being the most recent addition.  I have five of them.  No tablet yet, but I want one.  Actually I want one that is a laptop that morphs into a tablet.   I really don’t know why.  I spend most of my computer time, other than at work, on the desk top in my office.  An office stuffed full of books.  Books that I hardly ever take off the shelves, but I like the way they look, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the years, packing them, moving them, and unpacking them to put them back on shelves.  Some of those books I could never part with, and I know I’ll read some of them again.

I find it sad that the computer and ebooks have started to wipe out the printed book, newspaper and magazine.  I like reading “hard-copy” publications.  I like the book in my hand, the ereader just doesn’t cut it.  Not too far down the road, we might just be able to download the book directly to our brains.  But then I hate science fiction.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that people are still reading my blog even though I haven’t written anything in months.  They’re still interested in who invented the light bulb, and the Scottsborough Boys, the two most read stories on any given day.  Some days, people think I know how to back up a boat trailer and read that two-part blog, to find out that I really don’t.

I heard somewhere, or read somewhere, or somebody once told me, that a “real” writer has a need to write, that they just have to do it.  Words are just dying to get out of their heads and onto a printed page.  It doesn’t mean that they are “good” writers, necessarily, there aren’t really very many of those, but they’re “real” writers.  I don’t think I am, “real” I mean.  I like to write, I find it somewhat easy, I always seem to have something to write about, but none of these words are just “dying” to get out.  I am quite often pleased with what comes out of the keyboard and onto the page (or the screen, whatever).  I read them over some time in the future and think, “Hey, that was pretty good.”  Self-absorbed ain’t I?

Why isn’t “ain’t an acceptable word?  We’ve added a whole lot of words to the English language over the years.  What does everyone have against the word “ain’t”?  I just pulled a “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary” copyright 1973 off of my bookshelf, and damned if it ain’t in there.  (Spellchecker still doesn’t like it, wants it to be isn’t or aren’t or am not.)  But the word is there, and this is what it says:  “—though disapproved by many and more common in less educated speech, used orally in most parts of the U.S. by many educated speakers esp. in the phrase ‘ain’t I.’”  I don’t know about you, but it sounds less educated to say “ain’t I” than to say “ain’t that great?”  WTF.

I’ll bet you didn’t know on this day in 1931, Nevada legalized gambling.  You probably thought it was always legal in Nevada.  And, a short time later, they legalized divorce.  Why, because they saw it as a way out of the Great Depression.  Gambling is still the state’s largest tax revenue source.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd Elvis Presley made a down payment of $1,000 on this date in 1957, on a 13.8 acre wooded site on the outskirts of Memphis.  He paid a whopping $102,500 for the estate (now in the city of Memphis) that became known as Graceland.  It is the second most visited home in the United States.  Yep, number one is the white one on Pennsylvania Avenue.  I heard Donald Trump was offering to cover the cost of tours at the White House, which were cancelled indefinitely due to the inability of our elected officials to agree on logical ways to avert sequestration (sounds like castration doesn’t it?) which they didn’t, but I don’t know if he did.  I guess I could look it up on the internet.  The one and only time I was able to see the White House, they had a bunch of huge tents set up on the lawn and I couldn’t even see it.

And remember those “weapons of mass destruction” acronymed (I made that word up) as WMDs?  This is the day we launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  We’re still looking for WMDs, Saddam musta buried them good.  We’re not looking for Saddam or Osama anymore though.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring.  Ain’t it great?  

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Ghost At Wislow’s Mansion

 “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

On this date, January 9th, 1776, Thomas Paine published “Common Sense.”  The pamphlet that changed the thinking of the American colonist, and started the movement towards revolution.  I find it interesting that he was a corset maker in his teens.  Just saying.  He was also responsible for writing a pamphlet that is credited with prompting the French revolution in the 1790s.  Sounds like a rabble-rouser to me.  But the self-publisher, pamphleteer, a recognized profession in the day, sold an estimated 500,000 copies of “Common Sense.”  With a U.S. population around 2.5 million 1776, that would be considered a “best-seller” of grand proportion.  And its message changed the thinking of the colonists, who up until then just thought they were mistreated subjects of the crown.

Self-publishing has become all the rage again.  Just look at blogging.  I don’t have 500,000 subscribers yet, who can hardly wait to read my opinions, but my readership is not, at least, declining.  I can’t take credit for starting a revolution, or even,  for that matter,  swaying a vote, but I can publish a “Common Sense” and sell it on Amazon.com in paperback, or for download on a Kindle.  Just because.

My first self-publishing effort was in 4th grade.  The summer between third and fourth grade, actually.  I spent a part of the summer participating in the summer reading program at the local Carnegie Public Library.  We would move rocket ships or race horses on a cork board in the basement children’s section for each book we completed.  You had to chose books in your grade level, as determined by the librarian, but there was very little validation done to prove we had read it.  So we cheated of course.  I can’t remember what the grand prize was, but I never won it, even by cheating.  I was, however,  on very good terms with the librarian, Miss Ferguson.  An elderly lady who sounded like a steam engine with all the shushing she did to us kids looking for the latest “Harry Huggins” book in the stacks.  Miss Ferguson is responsible for teaching me the Dewey Decimal System, or how to find fiction books alphabetically by looking at the end of the book shelves.  I still have to mentally recite the alphabet to figure out what letter follows another, as I did then, but I could now find a book on my own.

A lot of smaller communities in the country had a Carnegie Public Library because Scottish-American philanthropist and businessman Andrew Carnegie put up the money for them.  He believed in helping those that helped themselves and libraries were his thing.  “You can’t push anyone up the ladder,” he said, “unless he is ready to climb himself.”  Not many communities that sought assistance from Carnegie to build a public library were turned down.  You had to show a need for a library, have the land, provide free service to all and the community had to provide 10 percent of the cost of the construction to the annual operation of the library.  It was a very successful program.  According to Wikipedia, when the last grant was issued in 1919, over half of the 3,500 libraries across the U.S. were built using Carnegie grants.

Back to my self-publishing effort.  That summer I decided to write a book.  After reading many, at least parts, of the books I had checked out for the summer reading program, I figured I had the formula: Paper, pencil, and some illustrations.  So for two weeks I went about writing “Ghost At Wislow’s Mansion,”  wrtten (sic) and illastrated (sic)” by your’s truly.  (By the way, (sic) is Latin for “thus”.  Basically it shows that you know the word preceding it is wrong from the original source.)   The book had an even number of pages due to the folded sheets of paper, and the text was drawn out to fit the appropriate number, including the cover.  Four folded sheets totaling 8 pages, nine pages of copy and illustration.

After completing the manuscript, I took it to the library to show Miss Ferguson.  She acted like she had discovered the next Beverly Cleary, the author of the “Huggin’s” books.  She ranted and raved about the small book, the prose, the illustrations, the plot, and said she would proudly display it on the table of books in the reading room.  I went in the next day to return a book and move my rocket ship on the board, and there it was in a book stand in the center of the table.  I paraded my friends to the library for weeks, just to see it.

The book was never in or out of print, so you won’t find copies of it anywhere, but my mother kept it and presented it to me in a scrapbook.  A scrapbook she gave to me of all my report cards, and other minor accomplishments, on my high school graduation.  She had saved it all.  The “F” I got in Religion in 5th grade.  The deficiency report from sixth and one from seventh.  Clippings from the Sheridan Press when I was mentioned as a member of a team.  It’s all there under yellowing scotch tape. 

So I can offer proof of the self-publishing of “Ghost At Wislow’s Mansion” because I still have it.  I can prove that I’m not making this up, although I never became the successful author of children’s books that Miss Ferguson was convinced I would be.  Life got in the way.

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